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English Grammar Lessons – Gender Usage June 7th, 2017

Some time ago, the English language was very gender-biased. Certain jobs would use the word “man” in its name because they were considered “masculine” jobs, or jobs that only men would have or be interested in.

Now, the gender equality movement has in turn impacted the words we use. Jobs are no longer strictly “for men” or “for women,” so their titles should not exclude one gender or the other. That said, many are still in the habit of using the older, gendered versions of the words, but if you want to be as politically-correct as possible, it is important to be gender-neutral.

Here’s a list of words or phrases that have changed over time to be gender-equal:

– “Waiter” or “waitress” >> “server”
– “Policeman” or “policewoman” >> “police officer”
– “Mailman” >> “mail carrier”
– “Businessman” or “businesswoman” >> “business person”
– “Actor” or “actress” >> “actor” (for both men and women)
– “Fireman” >> “firefighter”
– “Mankind” >> “humanity” or “people”
– “Manpower” >> “labor” or “workforce”
– “Steward” or “stewardess” >> “flight attendant”
– “Motherland” or “Fatherland” >> “native country”
– “the common man” >> “the average person”
– “cavemen” >> “cave dwellers”
– “Salesman” or “saleswoman” >> “salesperson” or “salesclerk”

In many other languages, such as French and Spanish, there are gender articles to show the gender of a noun, like une fille for a girl (female) and un livre for a book (male). There is “a/an” and “the” with no gender distinction in modern English. However, Old English used grammatical gender as the norm. Nouns were differentiated by gender and the ending of the words. The grammar showed via the gendered article and gendered noun whether it was masculine, feminine, or neuter. Today gender is less apparent in English’s structure, in contrast to many Latin-based languages. This is good news to English language learners, who don’t have to sweat over memorizing gender in grammar so much.

Gender use in the English language